These 3 Income ETFs Are a Retiree’s Best Friend

Are you a retiree looking for investment income? Or is that time of your life fast approaching? Don’t sweat it. The shift from a growth-oriented portfolio to a safer, income-oriented one doesn’t have to be a difficult transition.

Indeed, if you’re so inclined, you can accomplish it entirely with exchange-traded funds (ETFs). You should probably make a point of doing so, in fact, since as a retiree you should be seeking as much safety and stability as you can muster without crimping your total returns. Here are three dividend-paying ETFs to help get you started on your search.

SPDR S&P Dividend ETF

It’s an obvious choice almost to the point of being a cliche, but most of any portfolio’s foundational holdings are the obvious ones. To this end, consider starting your shift toward more income-producing assets with the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (NYSEMKT: SDY).

Just as the name suggests, the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF is built from the ground up to dish out dividend payments. It’s designed to mirror the performance of the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats, which are the best of the best of the market’s dividend payers. Dividend Aristocrats are large-cap companies that have upped their payouts for at least 25 consecutive years, and the upshot of limiting the index’s and fund’s holdings to “high-yield” names is clear.

Image source: Getty Images.

Be sure to keep your expectations in check. These stocks may be the highest-yielding names among the Dividend Aristocrats, but as a whole, Dividend Aristocrats are relatively modest dividend payers. This fund’s current dividend yield is only on the order of 2.8%; you can find better yields elsewhere.

As was noted, though, you’re trading net returns for overall safety, which is your first concern as a current or prospective retiree. Your second dividend ETF is where you’ll want to start seeking out higher yields in exchange for a little more risk.

To that end…

Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF

Assuming you’ve got a rock-solid dividend-paying foundation already established, add the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (NYSEMKT: VIG) to your potential pick list as the second trade to step into.

It’s not a difficult fund to figure out. The words “dividend appreciation” are in the name for good reason, as the ETF’s primary mission is holding stocks that are proven dividend growers. While its current yield of 1.5% is less than the present payout offered by the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF, it’s conceivable that in just a few years Vanguard’s fund could be the one producing more income.

To this end, the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF’s annual payout has grown from $1.83 just five years ago to 2021’s tally of $2.66 per share. That’s a 45% improvement, or compounded annualized growth of 7.8%, beating the pants off inflation during that five-year stretch.

There’s something of a catch with the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF. While all exchange-traded funds (like all conventional mutual funds) are meant to be bought and held for the long haul, you really have to be committed to long holding periods with this ETF to make it worth your while. If you’re at the time of your life where you’re even considering it, though, you’re ready for this sort of long-term trade.

iShares Broad USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF

Finally, once you’ve got relative safety and divided payout growth secured with holdings like the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF and Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF, you can start your search for higher yields. The iShares Broad USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEMKT: USHY) is a great place to begin (and perhaps end) that hunt.

Market veterans will understand that the words “high-yield corporate bond” are a polite way of saying “junk bonds.” Yes, the iShares Broad USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF is a junk bond fund, with most of its bond holdings rated as BBB and BB by Standard & Poor’s. That’s the upper tier of the junk bond portion of the bond rating scale, but junk nonetheless.

Keep things in perspective, however. These may be higher-risk holdings than corporate bonds issued by companies on a much firmer fiscal footing. But these companies aren’t in default, and most of this debt is stuff that’s typically scheduled to be replaced within the next five years, leaving the door open to frequent swapouts with stronger corporate debt.

Also note that no single issuer accounts for more than 0.4% of the fund’s current holdings, so the inherent risk of junk bonds is very, very well spread. The fund’s current above-average dividend yield of 5.3% more than offsets the actual degree of risk you’re taking on here.

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James Brumley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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